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Business School student an "inspirational role model" - Premier O'Farrell

29 May 2013

Australia wasn't even on the radar for Colombian Fernando Andres Vega Colmenares until a chance meeting in his home city of Bogota with the University of Sydney Business School's Associate Dean, Professor John Shields.

Today, Fernando is not only a Master of Commerce student at the Business School but, according to Premier Barry O'Farrell, is also an "inspirational role model" who has made a contribution which has added value to the NSW community.

Since arriving here in March 2012, Fernando has worked to improve the performance of small businesses in Broken Hill, engaged with aboriginal artists in the remote town of Wilcannia on the benefits of internet marketing and encouraged aboriginal children to pursue careers in business.

With help from University of Sydney Union's INCUBATE program, which supports the development of innovative ideas, Fernando is now working to build robots that he hopes will inspire children to take an interest in the technological possibilities of the future.

Fernando's commitment to the people of New South Wales, particularly those in the remote west of the state, recently earned him a place in the finals of the Premier's International Student of the Year Awards. According to organisers, the annual awards "promote social engagement and recognise the contribution made by individual students to the community". Fernando's "openness and respect for others" was described as "exemplary".

Fernando was nominated for the prestigious award by the Business School's Director of Business Development, Dr Leanne Piggott, who was a driving force behind the Broken Hill Industry Placement Program which took him and five fellow students to western NSW.

For six weeks, the students worked as volunteer consultants to local businesses and other organisations. "The program gave our students a unique opportunity to engage directly with industry and integrate the skills and knowledge learned at university into a practical business context," said Doctor Piggott.

"I decided to nominate Fernando for the International Student of the Year Awards because of his outstanding efforts, particularly during his time spent in Broken Hill working with small businesses and working with the Aboriginal school children during a visit to the town of Wilcannia, she said. "He did such a great job at promoting the work of the Business School."

"The awards were very exciting," Fernando said. "Making it through to the finals was a way of thanking all of those who have supported me since I arrived in Australia."

Fernando recently secured facilities at Australian Technology Park - Innovations where he will continue to work on his robotics project. After completing his Master of Commerce degree, he is hoping to do a PhD here at the University of Sydney.

"Sydney has presented me with more opportunities than I could have imagined," he concluded.